The start of a new year brings grand expectations and great anticipation, particularly for these 20 Artists to Watch in 2022. If recent history is any indication, expect to see many of these names occupy our year-end lists. Take our 2021 predictions for instance, which saw 2021 Mercury Prize-winner Arlo Parks and Gustaf release two of our 50 Favorite Albums. Bleach Lab, Holly Humberstone, Miss Grit, Pixey, and Sprints released great EPs. Meanwhile, Jess Locke, Lime Garden, and TV Priest had songs included on our Mega, Mega Playlist.
But now it’s time to focus on which artists and bands will be this year’s breakout wonder and who could suddenly emerge as a star. As always, the list is in alphabetical order.
Creature of Doom
When NYC indie favorites The Dig moved to Los Angeles, the transition presented new opportunities for each of its four members. For singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist David Baldwin, his project, Creature of Doom, was born. Despite the name, Baldwin’s music is not of the doom metal nor hard rock variety. Instead, it’s cinematic electro-rock / alt-pop that sounds like something Bowie might have dabbled in 40 years ago if he had access to the technologies available today. You don’t have to take our word about this, but instead you can hear for yourself. Specifically, some time in the next few weeks, Baldwin should be releasing a song that we can confidently say will be a song-of-the-year candidate.
With post-punk’s renaissance four years ago, bands who once were only known to the crowds that frequented grimy underground establishments have become household names. This is particularly the case across the pond. IDLES, Fountains D.C., Shame, and The Murder Capital are now staples of the UK and European indie scene and have sold out tours across North America. Following in their footsteps could be Ditz.
Fusing dark, gritty post-punk with krautrock and EDM, the Brighton-based quintet take the genre to electrifying heights. And like their musical cousins, the band brilliantly and vividly capture the dystopian present with harrowing yet mesmerizing effect. The handful of singles Cal Francis (vocals), Anton Mocock (guitar), Jack Looker (guitar), Caleb Remnant (bass), and Sam Evans (drums) have released demonstrate their potential. Their forthcoming debut album, The Great Regression (due this year via Alcopop! Records), meanwhile, should firmly plant the band as one of the UK’s most exciting bands.
What happens when a band draws inspiration from Glass Animals, Alt-J, and Thom Yorke while taking note of the innovation of Son Lux, Phoria, and Small Black? The answer is a mind-altering alt-electronic group named Dot Never.
While the trio have a small following at this moment, their fan base should grow as more people become familiar with their atmospheric sound. The London-based outfit can enchant and awe, creating music that would be perfectly suited for a National Geographic episode on deep sea exploration. They also can exhilarate and stun, formulating songs fit for the most exclusive nightclubs on the planet. Given the breadth of their skills, calling Dot Never an alt-electronic group is misleading. Instead, the enigmatic threesome are maestros.
With just two songs to their name, including NYC-based Dropper on this list might seem premature. Then again, we’ve never shied away from being bullish about a band’s potential after just a couple of tunes, particularly when they combine an off-kilter, art-rock approach with impeccable songwriting. Plus, how can one not love a band that offers this as their one-sentence pitch:
We aim to infect ears with gritty and plucky songs that touch on the melancholy, absurd, and emotional notions of finding yourself, sometimes in-spite of yourself, and baring your truths (with cans of cheap beer).
We’ll say it now – Andrea Scanniello, Larry Scanniello, Yukary Morishima, and Jono Bernstein will be this year’s version of Gustaf and Geese, who delivered two of 2021’s best albums. Speaking of which, Dropper’s debut album, Don’t Talk to Me, will be released February 11th, 2022 on their own Dirt Dog Records. Look for it and be prepared for surprises.
Just before the winter break, Ella McNamara released her project Ellur‘s debut EP, Moments (via Dance To The Radio). It was filled with songs that recalled the glory years of ’80s pop. Like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Tiffany, and Debbie Gibson, the Leeds-based singer-songwriter’s music and accompanying videos captured a young generation’s trials and tribulations. They are like journal entries of the lives we once knew or are fortunate to lead today. But even more that, they inspire us to move – physically, mentally, and emotionally. They inspire us to persevere. Doesn’t this description sound like a Material Girl who rocked our minds nearly forty years ago?
Those in the UK and Ireland should expect to see Ellur touring this year. For the rest of us, fingers crossed that the 20-year old has new music to share very soon.
Georgia Harmer‘s music career is only getting started. More specifically, her solo project is just commencing. For most of her life, however, the Toronto native has been surrounded by music with her aunt Sarah being well-known to Canadian listeners. More recently, she’s performed backing vocals for Alessia Cara all the while releasing a handful of demos that can be found within the depths of the internet. Despite her limited portfolio, influential indie label Arts & Crafts signed Harmer and released her debut single, “Headrush”, last autumn. The breezy dream-pop approach recalls Hazel English, Fazerdaze, and Hatchie, which should set up Harmer to become a sensation in the not-too-distant future.
In 2019, Grace Cummings quietly released her debut album, Refuge Cove, which should not have gone unnoticed by the vast majority. Fortunately, ATO Records was listening and signed the Melbourne-based singer-songwriter. On Friday, January 14th, the label will release Cummings’ sophomore output, Storm Queen. With her gripping, smoky vocal and storytelling and a style that is a blend of Fiona Apple, Joan Baez, and Tom Waits, the LP should be an early contender for Album of the Year. As a result, Cummings could experience a meteoric rise akin to Phoebe Bridgers three years ago, where everyone knows her name and every artist wants to collaborate with her.
Few countries reward innovation like Norway does, as the Scandinavian nation is home to some of the most brilliant musical minds (Highasakite, Hater, Team Picture). One to keep a close eye on this year is Jenne Bakke and her project Helven. The 21-year old multi-instrumentalist combines the forward-thinking ingenuity of Agnes Obel and Jenny Hval with the lushness and enchantment of Portishead and Luscious Jackson. Her music, as such, cannot be pigeonholed since it crosses multiple genres. Regardless of where it fits on the constantly-expanding musical paradigm, one word describes her music – brilliant.
Bakke’s brilliance will be heard on her debut, five-song EP, volume 1, which arrives next Friday January 14, 2022 via Jensen Records. She’s another star-in-the-making.
There are great voices and then there are voices that stop you dead in your tracks. Voices that paralyze every muscle in your body with the exception of those on your face, from which the words “Wow!” and “My gosh!” are uttered. And Kathleen Frances has one of those voices.
The young Bristolian’s smoky baritone is beyond intoxicating. It is unforgettable. Listening to her sing evokes memories of a bygone time when singers stood on low-platform stages and sang to an admiring crowd, who sat in their plush, velvet couches and attentively listened to every note. Maybe Frances is the one who rekindles this relationship between artist and audience, where the only words heard in the venue belong to the woman with the magical voice and knee-buckling stories. Soon, we’ll get to hear her voice in the privacy of our own room, as Frances’ debut EP, Through The Blue, will be released February 10th.
After years of percolating under the radar in Jacksonville, Florida, Rania Woodard and Brian Squillace took their project LANNDS to Los Angeles, where they gained greater traction within the indie scene. This includes signing with Run for Cover Records, who will release an extended edition of the duo’s latest EP, lotus deluxe, on February 4th. The mini-album presents another opportunity for people to familiarize themselves with LANND’s smouldering trip-hop. Think Portishead but even more sultry, seductive, and trippier, which sounds like the ideal music for an LA evening. Or any evening for that matter.
If you cannot wait for February, most of the song’s on the extended EP are available on Bandcamp.
It’s not a stretch to say that Danish outfit Lucky Lo are musical chameleons. With front-person Lo Ersare leading the way, the band can deliver a spellbinding overture like Cate Le Bon, a theatrical pop tune equivalent to Christine and The Queens, or an alt-folk masterpiece akin to Aldous Harding. They are always shifting and moving, releasing songs that are always unpredictable. This, in our humble opinion, is the hallmark of what makes music great art – the ability to surprise, provoke, and astound. Ersare (vocals, keys, banjo), Asger Nordtorp Pedersen (bass), Mads Nørgaard (guitars), Anja Backmann (backing vocals), and Casper Henning Hansen’s (drums) new album, Supercarry (March 25th via Tambourhinoceros), as such, is one we cannot wait to hear.
Pop music does not have to be formulaic to be entertaining. It can also be whimsical, quirky, and inventive. That last adjective often gets forgotten, as artists attempt to create a radio hit. For us, however, the best pop music not only gets the endorphins pouring but the synapses firing, making us think about what we just heard. In Mall Girl‘s short career that spans barely two years, they’ve constantly challenged with their alt-pop music. Every song is a musical adventure, but their stories are real, personal, and intelligent. Now the world needs to welcome Iver Armand Tandsether, Hannah Veslemøy Narvesen, Eskild Myrvoll, and Bethany Forseth-Reichberg into their worlds – or at least added to their music libraries.
The band is signed to Jansen Records, who will release their debut album, Superstar, on April 29th.
It might seem a bit unusual to list the daughter of two famous actors and the star of Stranger Things as an Artist to Watch, but Maya Hawke‘s career as a remarkable singer-songwriter is often overlooked. Despite her youthful age of 23, her music is beautifully retro, forging together ’40s folk, ’50s pop, and ’60s chamber pop. Like Dylan, Mitchell, and Costello, the child of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke (no she is not Tony Hawk’s daughter as stated on her Instagram account) writes splendid stories that at times feel like fables coming to life.
While there’s no word on whether a new album is coming this year (we have a inkling that news is coming soon), her 2020 debut LP, Blush (via Mom+Pop Music), is a great introduction into Hawke’s musical world. Or spin her latest single, “Blue Hippo”, below, which is also a stunning piece of theater.
Number One Popstar
We hope that Kate Howell will not be offended when we say that she, via her project Number One Popstar, is part “Weird” Al Jankovic and part Caroline Rose – witty, humorous, yet always hits the mark with her biting social commentary. Heck, her moniker is a play on society’s obsession with the superficial instead of the inventive. So while many strive to achieve success within existing institutional structures, Howell seeks to break them down and create new paths for clever and ingenious artists to make their mark. And in many ways, she already has through her songs and amusing videos.
While details are limited at the moment, Number One Popstar’s debut album is expected this year. When it does get released, maybe MTV will embrace her like they did with “Weird” Al nearly four decades ago.
While some Instagram and TikTok stars are popular for reasons unknown to us, teenagers Jude Mccreath (vocal, guitar), Ben Campbell (vocal, guitar), Georgia Vermeiren (bass), and David Addison (drums) ooze talent. They’ve achieved their success not by performing reckless stunts or offering beauty tips. On the contrary, their band second thoughts has garnered a legion of followers on the strength of their catchy and blustery Brit-pop and thoughtful storytelling. We’re not sure if their followers are similarly-aged individuals who gravitate to their throwback pop-rock sound or older folks who crave nostalgia. Whatever the case may be, the Hitchins, England band could be this generation’s Yo La Tengo, igniting among young people a love affair for meaningful, engaging, and original music. Now someone sign this band, please!
Sinead O’Brien is not a new artist, as she’s been around for more than half-a-decade. The spotlight, however, is finally shining on the Limerick native, who is following in the footsteps of P.J. Harvey. Like the English legend, O’Brien’s music is fearless and diverse. She can craft heavy, throbbing post-punk; groovy and playful art-punk; or swirling alt-rock. The musical approach, however, is just the vessel by which she communicates her thoughts and observations. Her songwriting is witty, intelligent, and often brutally honest, peeling back the layers of reality that hide the truth. Now thanks to Chess Club Records and the Interpol’s Paul Banks (who counts himself as a fan), the world gets to discover this Irish hidden gem.
From Nashville to Brooklyn and finally landing in London, Soren Bryce has traveled extensively to discover her artistry. However, as the old adage goes, it’s not the destination that matters but the journey, and Bryce’s has led her to Tummyache. At times, she channels 1993 Seattle and Portland with a lo-fi, gritty indie-rock approach, where starkness glimmers through the melancholic grind and crippling bleakness emerges from the jarring, reverb-drenched noise. Other times, New York’s punk scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s are channeled, offering added intensity to her poignant songwriting. If we were the betting types, we think Bryce could experience a similar breakthrough as Arlo Parks, possibly as early as this spring. This is when her new album, Soak, is expected to be released on Tone Tree Music.
When Wallice Hana Watanabe – or simply Wallice – released her debut EP, Off the Rails, which was one of our favorite EPs of the year, she did it all her own. Despite the DIY approach, she emerged as one of 2021’s great success stories. As the LA-based singer-songwriter plans for 2022, she will not be alone. Now signed with UK indie label Dirty Hit (home to Wolf Alice, Beabadoobee, and The 1975), the world is literally Wallice’s oyster. She’s about to embark on a major international tour, where people will get to hear her wry lyrics about growing up in the 2020s and immensely catchy guitar-pop. The young artist has the makings to be a major star very, very soon.
Since releasing their debut single, “Chaise Longue”, as Wet Leg in the summer, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers’ popularity has exploded. This song was sensational and one of 2021’s very best (we personally could not stop playing it). It was so good that they were invited to perform on Late Night with Seth Myers while selling out a couple of shows in the US. Since then, they’ve released three additional songs filled with amusing lyrics and catchy alt-pop melodies. Grander things await the duo from the Isle of Man, as their self-titled debut arrives April 8th via Domino Recording Co. Expect it to land on numerous “Best of” lists eleven months from now.
Some will recognize Meredith Lampe as the guitarist, synth player, and vocalist with the super-cool, alt-pop trio Colatura. Most, though, won’t know that she has her own solo project, which she started last year. As Work Wife, the Pacific Northwest-born, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter crafts immensely dreamy and heart-fluttering jangle-pop. Imagine Mac DeMarco and members of Belle and Sebastian playing with Alvvays, and that is a synopsis of what Work Wife sounds like. Those who have viewed Colatura’s Instagram page or Lampe’s own, however, know she has a playful side, which comes out in her amusing yet relatable stories. Put all these things together and you get a young artist who will be turning heads from coast-to-coast.
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